• Gender Power and Social Class: The Role of Women in James Fenimore Cooper's The Pathfinder, Homeward Bound, Home as Found, and The Ways of the Hour

      Zeitvogel, Chuck; The College at Brockport (2004-11-22)
      This thesis deals with the role Cooper's female characters play in his novels of manners and social class. Though Cooper is best known for his Leatherstocking Tales and other novels of romantic adventure, he was also a critic of American society. Through his novels Cooper clearly illustrated what he believed were the proper gender roles for men and women. He also used his novels to show his frustration about changes in societal order. His writing was his way of coping with America's shift of power from the landed genteel class to the urban factory owner class. This thesis incorporates four of Cooper's lesser studied novels: The Pathfinder. Homeward Bound, Home as Found, and The Ways of the Hours. In each of these novels Cooper uses gender roles and social class to express his views of the ideal American society. The gender roles Cooper establishes are clear. Female characters are only allowed to wield power in small, enclosed spaces, or in life or death situations. Occasionally Cooper may grant female characters more power, but only if they are away from society, in the wilderness for example, or when there is no chance of them usurping power from men. Male characters, on the other hand, control all social spaces and political power. Although many scholars either attack Cooper's novels of social criticism, calling them the rants of a bitter man, or ignore them altogether, this is a gross injustice. Cooper was not a bitter man. He was a man living through a time of social change. Unfortunately he was not ready or able to cope with those changes. His novels are his attempt to cope with social change as best he could.
    • Land, Law and Faith: Discourses of Liberty in James Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Crater

      Tiffin, Lisa M.; The College at Brockport (2002-05-18)
      This thesis deals with James Fenimore Cooper's beliefs regarding the strengths and weaknesses of American democracy as expressed through his fiction. While many critics feel Cooper's belief in the American system soured in his later years, this thesis seeks to prove he not only remained consistent in his views, but that those views, while at times critical of American politics, were largely optimistic. This thesis will focus on two early novels, The Pioneers (1823), and The Last of the Mohicans (1826), as well as one of Cooper’s last novels, The Crater (1847). In both the early novels as well as in The Crater, Cooper seeks to display the weaknesses in the American systems of democracy and capitalism through discussions centering on the land and the law. In both The Pioneers, and Mohicans, Cooper focuses on the ownership of the land and its resources as well as on the right to make laws and govern one's own destiny. In The Crater, Cooper endorses his belief in America's governmental and economic systems, as well as clarifies his fears if those systems go unchecked. As well, Cooper offers in The Crater a unique solution of faith as a way to check potential abuses while protecting the integrity of liberty. Cooper's optimism is shown through his belief that his criticism of capitalism and demagoguery, while not always understood or well-received, were necessary in order to preserve a nation he felt had great strength and potential.